Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Providing Hope in Times of Tragedy

Another terrible tragedy has struck the shores of the United States.
On the afternoon of April 15, during the annual running of the Boston Marathon, a large-scale bombing struck a portion of the race just south of the finish line. Three people have been confirmed dead, and more than 140 injured, as survivors struggle to find peace and keep up with the work required to move in — both in the short-term and foreseeable future.
At times like these, it's easy to see the worst in the human race. Who would be so terrible to justify this sort of action, especially one that could take the life of an 8-year-old boy? Terror is terror, but when it strikes close to home, it can seem unbearable.
But times like these also illicit the best in the human race. Even before the full effects of the blast had warn off, first responders and security personnel rushed to see to sort out the survivors, the injured and the deceased. Scores of Bostonians offered up their homes to racers and others affected by the tragedy. Newspapers jumped into action to try to cover the tragedy.
A quote by the late Fred Rogers went viral, and reminded us all that, even in the worst of the human existence, we can find good:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" -- Fred Rogers
This quote, among others, reminds us that — even when the dark seems the darkest — there is always hope. Even as the most abominable of inhumane acts strikes the collective consciousness, we can rely on our hope and faith to carry us through. That is the essence of humanity, and it is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ; to provide hope for the hopeless, care for the afflicted and love for those who need it most. 
Even as we contemplate on the lost life of one of the most pure and innocent of God's children, there is hope. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were reminded just a short time ago about the promises of eternity, especially when dealing with the lost of small, loved ones:
“The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world," the prophet Joseph Smith said. "They were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again.”
 Words such as these provide us some measure of comfort, even if it isn't nearly enough when we are passing through it. That is simply because words can do little to quell the gush of emotions felt by the most affected by tragedy. But given time, faith and an overarching reliance on the promises made by God and his Son, we can overcome.
It's hard to see from this vantage point, but the Lord has promised us great blessings if we endure the trials of life. And with greater trial and tragedy come greater blessings. This was the theme of a recent General Conference talk, in October 2012:
As I felt the guilt, anger, and self-pity trying to consume me, I prayed that my heart could change," Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the 70 said. "Through very personal sacred experiences, the Lord gave me a new heart, and even though it was still lonely and painful, my whole outlook changed. I was given to know that I had not been robbed but rather that there was a great blessing awaiting me if I would prove faithful.
Like Elder Bowen, we don't know the reason why bad things happen to certain people, even good people — the best people, perhaps. Job did not know the reasons why the Lord allowed Satan to afflict him, one of his most obedient sons, with the sorest challenges in life. But like Job, we all have the promise that "in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:26).
Through modern revelation, the Lord promises each of his followers that tribulation always leads to great blessings — whether in this life or the eternities:
"For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet but is night at hand." (D&C 58:4)
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides hope to a world filled with anger, sorrow, depression and despair. As members of the Lord's church and holders of the gospel, it is our responsibility to share this hope with the masses. Let us be like the Savior, who in times of trial, desperately extended the invitation to all to "Come Unto Me."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April General Conference approaches

Three more days to General Conference. Are you prepared to receive the word of the Lord, as spoken by Prophets, Seers and Revelators?